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Difference between donkey, donkey and mule

It seems that we have always heard of them and that we were clear about them: the mule from the Christmas nativity scene, the donkey from “Shrek” or the donkey whose throat hurt in those nursery rhymes. But at the moment of truth, would we know how to distinguish them if we had them in front of us? It is likely that, at some point, you have confused the terms “donkey”, “donkey” and “mule” or you have wondered if they refer to the same animal with large ears and a little smaller than the horse. From AgroCorrn we are going to clarify your doubts about the difference between donkey, donkey and mule .

You may also be interested in: Characteristics of wild and domestic animals
  1. Difference between donkey and donkey
  2. The mule
  3. Hinny
  4. Main differences between donkeys, donkeys, mules and hinnies

Difference between donkey and donkey

Many times we have wondered if what we have before us is a donkey or a donkey; or what are the characteristics of one and the other that can allow us to differentiate them. The answer is very simple: there is no key to distinguish them, because the only difference is in the way of referring to them , since it is the same animal, Equus africanus . “Donkey” (from Latin ” burricus “, small horse) is a synonym for “ass” (from Latin ” asinus “), which is commonly used in a more vulgar way.

The donkey or donkey is an animal belonging to the equidae family, along with horses or zebras. Compared to the former, donkeys are smaller in size (although they vary considerably), their manes are shorter, so they do not fall on the neck, and longer ears that facilitate the dissipation of body heat. They are also longer-lived than horses and can reach 40 years.

Its most common coloration is grayish tones, and can go as far as black and white. Brown tones are also common. They are often lighter in color around the snout, eyes and belly, with two darker cross-shaped stripes on their back.

There are two types of donkeys, domestic and wild . The former were for a long time considered a different species, but finally it was classified as a subspecies (Equus africanus asinus). The donkey is commonly used for shooting and riding as it has a higher physical performance than the horse and is less expensive to maintain.

The mule

The term “mule” is also often confusing together with “donkey” and “donkey”. However, unlike these two previous ones that were equivalent, the mule is the result of the cross between two species; the donkey and the horse, more specifically, is the result of the crossing between a donkey (male) and a mare .

The mule also belongs to the equidae family. Their main characteristic is that they are sterile as they result from the union of two different species with different chromosome endowments (64 chromosomes in horses and 62 in donkeys). What do we mean by this? Well, we humans have 46 chromosomes, but our eggs and sperm contain only half (23 chromosomes) so that, at the time of reproduction, when these gametes unite, the chromosomes pair with their respective counterparts and become Add up the total of 46 chromosomes that each of us has.

Returning to donkeys and horses, as they have different numbers of chromosomes, the pairing will not occur correctly and some of them will be loose without forming pairs (offspring with 63 chromosomes are produced). In addition, since they are from different species, they may have the genes within the chromosomes distributed in different ways, so that when the homologues unite (for example, chromosome 4 of the donkey and chromosome 4 of the horse) they may be carrying information for different characters. , instead of having information for it, as it should happen. Thus, the result is different problems in the offspring, such as sterility in mules .

Despite its sterility, the mule has great strength and resistance , making it a widely used animal for loading and transporting. It has common characteristics both with the donkey (thick head, long ears or short mane) and with the horse (height and shape of the body, the shape of the neck and rump, uniformity of the coat and teeth). In addition, it emits sounds similar to the braying and characteristic neighing of the horse.


There is another hybrid between donkeys and horses , but unlike the mule, it is the result of the union between a donkey and a horse . This hybrid is called hinny and is less frequent than the mule due to the difficulties of the donkey in childbirth, being smaller than the mare, which is believed to be a factor that limits the size of the fetus. The hinnyard differs from the mule by having a smaller body size, smaller ears, a longer and slimmer head, and a disproportionately large body in relation to the legs. Furthermore, as in the case of the mule and for the same reason, hinnies are sterile.

Main differences between donkeys, donkeys, mules and hinnies

In case you are still not sure how you could differentiate them at a glance, we are going to summarize their main characteristics by making a comparison that we hope will clear up your doubts. Taking horses as a reference, probably the clearest example that we can all have in mind, we can conclude the following about the main differences between donkey, donkey, mule and hinny , remembering that the first two are two names for the same animal:

Donkeys and donkeys

  • Smaller in size.
  • Shorter manes.
  • Longer ears.
  • Dark-colored fur in the shape of a cross on the back.
  • Light colorations around the snout, eyes and belly.
  • Longer (up to 40 years).


  • Hybrids between donkey and mare.
  • They are sterile.
  • Thick head, long ears and short manes, like those of a donkey.
  • Height and body shape similar to those of the horse, as well as the shape of the neck and rump, the uniformity of the coat and the teeth.
  • It emits brays similar to the donkey and the neighs of the horse.


  • Hybrids between donkey and horse.
  • Smaller than the mule.
  • Smaller ears, but larger than those of the horse.
  • Long and thin head.
  • Body in relation to the legs disproportionately large.

For example, in the image below we can see a mule pulling a plow, because due to their strength and resistance they are used all over the world for field work such as plowing the land.

If you want to read more articles similar to Difference between donkey, donkey and mule , we recommend that you enter our category of Pets .

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